Taiwan Exploration – Taipei & Taichung in 5 Days, 4 Nights

It has been quite some times since I last updated this blog in July. This new post is about my recent trip to Taiwan. This was my second trip to this gorgeous country. My first trip was done back in 2011 when my wife and I took our wedding photos there. We had fond memory of the extremely friendly people, the colorful and interesting places as well as the cultural of Taiwan.

Taipei Terroir House – http://terroirhouse.mysinablog.com/
Taichung Feng Chia Garden – http://gardenstay.net

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28 August 2014

There’s only one flight per day to Taiwan from Kota Kinabalu and it departs at 6.10am so early in the morning, we had already prepared to depart for the airport at 4am. The flight took 3 hours and 20 minutes and landed at Taoyuan International Airport at about 9.40am. AirAsia, the airline we took, used to land at Terminal 2 but commencing June 2014, it lands at Terminal 1 building and it was a different experience compared to last time when we visited Taiwan in 2011. The terminal looks a lot older.

Preparing to board early in the morning
Preparing to board early in the morning
Approaching Tao Yuan International Airport
Approaching Tao Yuan International Airport

After done collecting our luggage, we headed straight to the ground floor of the terminal building where we took a bus to the Taoyuan HSR (High Speed Railway) station (TWD30 or about RM3.36 per pax). From there, we took the HSR train to Taichung. People like us who never experienced the speed of a bullet train finds the journey too short to thoroughly enjoy it. Okay, I may be exaggerating but it took only 40 minutes for a 154km trip to reach Taichung. By the time we reached there, it was about 12pm.

Empty Bus. On the way to Taoyuan HSR (High Speed Railway station). This bus driver was very grumpy. I guess he did not like his job.
Empty Bus. On the way to Taoyuan HSR (High Speed Railway station). This bus driver was very grumpy. I guess he did not like his job.
Lunch at Taoyuan HSR Station before proceed.
Lunch at Taoyuan HSR Station before proceed.
At Taoyuan HSR Station ticketing counter. It costed TWD540 or RM60.60 per pax from Taoyuan HSR Station to Taichung HSR Station. For further information about ticket pricing, please visit http://www5.thsrc.com.tw/en/. Pricing fluctuate from time to time.
At Taoyuan HSR Station ticketing counter. It costed TWD540 or RM60.60 per pax from Taoyuan HSR Station to Taichung HSR Station. For further information about ticket pricing, please visit http://www5.thsrc.com.tw/en/. Pricing fluctuate from time to time.
Here came our train!
Here came our train!
Inside the train, travelling towards Taichung.
Inside the train, travelling towards Taichung.
Arrived
Arrived

In Taichung, there’s no Metro (MRT/MTR) available yet. Although their bus is efficient, the fact that it stops frequently to pick up passenger along the way would be wasting our travelling time. Hence we hired a 7 seaters vehicle (Hyundai Starex) with driver to bring us around famous tourist spots there. In case you need to know, we hired from (黄宏记) and can be emailed at 44cici@gmail.com for inquiry and booking. Continuing my story earlier, a female driver fetched us from the Taichung HSR station to our Mingsu and it costed TWD1,000 or RM112.23 for the 7 of us.

Arrived at our Mingsu.
Arrived at our Mingsu.

The Mingsu we stayed was quite near to Feng Jia Night Market (逢甲夜市). In the afternoon, we spent some time familiarizing with the place we’re staying and walked to the Feng Jia Night Market to get some idea about the exact location. After done doing some survey, we took bus “CTBUS (中台湾客运)” No.25 from the place we stay to 一中商圈. This is another famous market area where you can find lots of clothes (particularly for ladies) and street food. We returned to Feng Jia Night Market at around 7pm taking the same CTBUS No.25.

Exploring Fengjia area. Fengjia University sits just beside Fengjia Night Market. The one you're looking is the university itself.
Exploring Fengjia area. Fengjia University sits just beside Fengjia Night Market. The one you’re looking is the university itself.
Another area at Fengjia
Another area at Fengjia
Snapping some photos while waiting for bus to bring us to 一中商圈.
Snapping some photos while waiting for bus to bring us to 一中商圈.
At 一中商圈
At 一中商圈
Street Food at 一中商圈
Street Food at 一中商圈

Feng Jia Night Market was big and fully packed with people and it is a lot bigger than the previous mentioned 一中商圈. Here you find all sorts of street food and they include the famous smelly toufu, roasted scallops, grilled squid, giant sausages and all sorts of sweet and colorful drinks. According to our driver/guide Mr Ke (柯先生), if Shilin Night Market (士林夜市) is the largest in Taipei, Feng Jia Night Market is the largest in Taichung. It was too big for me to finish exploring the night market that night as I was already too tired to continue and decided to head back to our Mingsu at 9pm and leave the rest of the exploration the following day.

At Fengjia Night Market. Selling gigantic Hotdogs. What do they look like...hm..
At Fengjia Night Market. Selling gigantic Hotdogs. What do they look like…hm..
At Fengjia Night Market. Ukulele?
At Fengjia Night Market. Ukulele?
At Fengjia Night Market. Ready to have some crabs for dinner.
At Fengjia Night Market. Ready to have some crabs for dinner.
At Fengjia Market. Steak on the spot.
At Fengjia Market. Steak on the spot.

29 August 2014

We planned 4 places for the day namely, Lavender Cottage (薰衣草森林), Moncoeur (心之芳庭), 921 Earthquake Museum (921地震教育园区) and Banana New Paradise (香蕉新乐园). Our journey starts at 10am. Mr Ke drove us to a local famous cafe for a breakfast session before we head to a local store called 一福堂。They have libraries of local famous tidbits so if you’re in Taichung, be sure to drop by at this famous store.

一福堂
一福堂
Various famous local tidbits available for sell
Various famous local tidbits available for sell

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Various types of Tea
Various types of Tea

Journey to Lavender Cottage actually starts at 11am and we reached there about 12pm. The place was situated about 32km from the Minsu we stayed and the fact it took an hour to reach was because we had to drive through winding and narrow roads and along many hills. If you love flowers, their wonderful smells and like taking pictures, the journey is worthwhile. Although Lavender is the theme of this park, they actually have all kinds of flowers planted here. Entrance fee was TWD100 or RM11.22 per pax but, you can utilize this to exchange any product they are selling in the park. Among the products include perfumes made from the flowers, soaps, t-shirts and ointments.

Mailboxes to input your wishes
Mailboxes to input your wishes
Restaurant. A very relaxing environment.
Restaurant. A very relaxing environment.
Walking in the park surrounded by interesting vegetation
Walking in the park surrounded by interesting vegetation
Products sold here were all made from the vegetation in the park
Products sold here were all made from the vegetation in the park
Entrance to the perfume house. Their perfumes were all made from the flowers available in the park.
Entrance to the perfume house. Their perfumes were all made from the flowers available in the park.
Dogs/pets, relax here.
Dogs/pets, relax here.
Push to get the smell from different kinds of flowers. Interesting.
Push to get the smell from different kinds of flowers. Interesting.
Ointment and soaps made from flowers
Ointment and soaps made from flowers

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Our next destination was Moncoeur. This is a place perfect for wedding couples who wish to take pictures with interesting backgrounds. You can find all sorts of interesting building structures, flowers, huts and garden for picture taking. Entrance fee is TWD200 or RM22.45 but again, you can use this to exchange for any of their products that they are selling.

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One of the structure, European style.
One of the structure, European style.

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Another structure. If I remember correctly, this was actually a toilet.
Another structure. If I remember correctly, this was actually a toilet.
A small hut in a jugle
A small hut in a jugle
This place, Moncoeur, is suitable for photo taking session.
This place, Moncoeur, is suitable for photo taking session.
We sneaked into here, and was asked to leave
We sneaked into here, and was asked to leave
Wishing Spoon.
Wishing Spoon.
Another interesting structure
Another interesting structure

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921 Earthquake Museum was the next destination. This museum was created in memory of an earthquake that happened here in Taichung on 21 September 1999 that resulted in 2,415 deaths, 29 missing and 11,305 injured and damaged properties valued at over TWD 300 billion. The site of this museum was used to be a school but it was heavily damaged in the disaster, and had since being preserved. In this museum, you would also find the “scars” left behind by the earthquake namely the just mentioned damaged school buildings and its classrooms, the faults (cracks in the ground) as well as various facilities in educating public regarding what is earthquakes, why it happened and its effects to the people. It’s quite educating for us who never actually experienced a major earthquake throughout our lifetime before. Entrance fee per pax is TWD70 or about RM7.86.

921 Earthquake Museum
921 Earthquake Museum
A section of the museum to educate public about earthquakes
A section of the museum to educate public about earthquakes

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Video talked about how earthquake is formed.
Video talked about how earthquake is formed.
Faults or cracks at the school's running track preserved.
Faults or cracks at the school’s running track preserved.
One of the damaged buildings preserved
One of the damaged buildings preserved

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Our last destination was Banana New Paradise. I have no idea why it’s called “Banana” New Paradise apart from a mascot holding bananas at this place. This is actually a 40s to 60s era themed restaurant. You can find all sorts of things back in those dates on display around the restaurant which included a car, equipment used by barber in those days, advertisement posters, propaganda and products, just to name a few (see pictures). This place is perfect for photo taking and of course, having meal if you like the feel of the 40s to 60s, however, meal per pax here can cost as much as TWD300 or about RM33.67 per pax. You are free to take photos on their displayed exhibits with the condition to dine at their restaurant.

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This is the only BANANA I can find…
老铁马
老铁马
Some of the old signboards displayed here
Some of the old signboards displayed here
Old poster
Old poster

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The hired vehicle plus driver costed TWD4,000 for an 8 hour trip to bring all 7 of us to all of the above places just for your information. Any extra hour will set you back TWD400 per hour, which we just did as we exceeded extra 2 hours for our trip but the hired driver agreed to charge us TWD4,500 instead.
If you ask me whether I would recommend all above places in your plan to visit Taichung, I would only recommend 1. Feng Jia Market (because many things to see, many things to eat and many things to buy) 2. Lavender Cottage (because personally I like Lavender, flowers and the relaxing environment) and lastly 3. 921 Earthquake Museum (because it’s very educating). You can visit the rest to take interesting photos.
30 August 2014
After checking out from our Mingsu, the same driver, Mr Ke came to fetch us around 9a.m once we had done taking our breakfast. Out plan for this day was to visit Jiufen Old Street (九份老街), Shifen Old Stree (十分老街), Wufenpu (五分埔) and Shilin Night Market (士林夜市).
On the way to Jiufen
On the way to Jiufen
Approaching Jiufen
Approaching Jiufen
So, first stop was Jiufen Old Street, basically it’s located at the northern part of Taiwan so the journey took about 2 hours to reach. We traveled through the outskirts of Taiwan and through highways, enjoying lots of beautiful scenes of Taiwan.The whole journey was about 194km and we reached Jiufen Old Street about 12pm.
What is very interesting about Jiufen this place is the fact a small township is located on a hillside and it’s quite an interesting sight for myself. This place was used to be a prosperous gold mining town but is now replaced as a tourist spot. You can find basically lots of weird and interesting stuff here.
Arrived. Look at the view.....
Arrived. Look at the view…..
Another view...
Another view…
The old street. Packed with people and shops selling different kinds of goods.
The old street. Packed with people and shops selling different kinds of goods.

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Focused my camera at the wrong subject...should be on the pretty girl there...
Focused my camera at the wrong subject…should be on the pretty girl there…

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Our next destination was Shifen Old Street. Just like Jiufen Old Street, this place used to be a mining old town (coal) but has now become the tourist spot. This place is famous for its Sky Lantern (天灯). It is basically a lantern where people write down their wishes onto it before it is released into the air via the hot-air-rises principal.
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Mr Ke, our driver guiding us what to write..
Mr Ke, our driver guiding us what to write..
Released 天灯.
Released 天灯.
Next stop was Wufenpu. This is more of a lady’s place because they sell lady’s clothes mostly and this place is huge. Looking for latest fashion then you should not be missing this place if you visit Taipei area.
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After done finish visiting above places, we were taken to our Mingsu, finishing our trip at about 7pm with Mr Ke.
Mr Ke is a very friendly driver in his 50s. He likes to joke a lot too. As long as you communicate with him throughout the journey instead of sitting in the car silently, its going to be a fun journey with him. Communication, after all take two to tango. If i’m not wrong, he works under 黄宏记 but you can also directly contact him at 0985-058398. Hire him only if you have lots of people (6-7 pax) on the trip, otherwise, it’s not worthwhile. This whole day trip of 10 hours he charged TWD5,800. No exceeding time for this day after lesson learnt from previous day.
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We then headed over to Shilin night market at about 8pm via Taipei Metro. This can be reached via Jiantan Station along the Red Line.
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Latest Taipei Metro map for your information.
Shilin night market as mentioned earlier, is the biggest night market in Taipei. If you’re looking for street food of Taiwan and clothing, do not miss this one out. Food prices here I would consider acceptable ranging from TWD30 to TWD150 (RM3.37 to RM16.83) depends on portion and types of food you purchase. Do note that fruits are very expensive though, so be warned in advance. The reason being that fruits in Taiwan, according to our driver, have being genetically engineered so they taste sweet and juicy compared to what we can find in Malaysia. Takes an example of guava, in Malaysia it costs around RM3.00 per kilogram but in Taipei, 3 units of Guavas will set you back TWD100 or around RM11.22.
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Time to hunt for food!
Time to hunt for food!
Pork chop...Chicken chop....how about Squid chop? TWD150 or RM16.83. For me, considered cheap.
Pork chop…Chicken chop….how about Squid chop? TWD150 or RM16.83. For me, considered cheap.

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Fried fresh milk!
Fried fresh milk!

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Nice!
Nice!
We ended our trip at around 11pm. If you ask me, I would suggest you to visit all the places I have mentioned for this day as they are all worthwhile a visit.
31 August 2014
We kind relaxed our foot steps for this day after rushing here and there last few days. Everyone woke up pretty late and we only managed to start the day at 11pm. After done take breakfast at a local McDonald, we head over to the the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall via Taipei Metro, stopping at Chiang Kai Shek Memorail Hall Station along the Red Line. Taken some great pictures as well as witnessing the changing of guard ceremony at around 12pm.
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We headed over to Taipei 101, the greatest landmark of Taipei as this was used to be the tallest building in the world until the opening of Burj Khalifah in Dubai in 2010. This can also be reached via Taipei Metro, stopping at Taipei 101/World Trade Center Station along the Red Line. If you’re looking for luxury goods, this is the place you should come. Among branded outlet include Coach, Rolex, Patek Philippe, Dior, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. We stopped here to take a group pic. They say you’re not in Taiwan if you do not come here to take a photo so we did.
Taipei 101
Taipei 101

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Taipei Station Under Ground Market was next. This was actually shops located inside the Taipei Station and again, a lot of things can be purchased here. If you like shopping, do not miss this out. Personally, I don’t think you would be able to finish exploring the shops here in one day. These markets were divided into Y, R and Z area. We only managed to visit a portion of Y area within a span of 3 hours.
Map of Y, R, Z area coloured in red, yellow and pink for your info.
Map of Y, R, Z area coloured in red, yellow and pink for your info.
Our next destination was Danshui Old Street (淡水老街). This was reached via Taipei Metro Red Line and Tamsui Station (last station). Here, again to experience local street food but one thing special here is to witness the sun setting as well street performances.
Tamsui Station
Tamsui Station
Street Performer showing off his Yoyo skill
Street Performer showing off his Yoyo skill
Another Stree Performer
Another Stree Performer

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My advice: consume this as fast as you can!
My advice: consume this as fast as you can!

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You can have seafood here too.
You can have seafood here too.

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We visited Ximending (西门町) for the last opportunity to shop in Taiwan. This place is equivalent to the golden triangle of Kuala Lumpur so basically, this is where all people, all products and all food meets in Taiwan. This was where we concluded our trip in Taiwan and the next day, 1 September 2014, we took our flight back to Sabah at 9.10am.
Entrance to Ximending
Entrance to Ximending

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You can find streetfood here too.

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Time to go back to our Mingsu
Time to go back to our Mingsu
Taiwan has too many tourist spots to visit and one cannot possibly finish visiting all the places in a week’s time. I remember Mr Ke, our driver told us he himself were unable to finish visiting all these places in Taiwan, let alone us foreigners. Will we be coming back? Definitely. The friendliness of the people itself already attracts me to want to visit this beautiful country again. I shall visit you again soon!

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